What Do Counselors’ Jobs Entail?
In some cases, counselors’ jobs require a master’s degree or even a doctorate degree, especially if you are going to be working with people who have difficulties or who are troubled.
As a counselor, you specialize in a particular field, such as education. In this area, you may be a high school counselor or a vocational counselor. In these areas, you focus on helping high school students prepare for college or on helping adults determine what their career goals are. You may also advise adults who are undergoing a career change what steps to take next. You may also help these people emotionally, if they are undergoing particular stresses because of job loss or job stress.
Types of Counseling Jobs
You may counsel people who have difficulties with emotional issues or with drug and alcohol abuse, for example. You may also function as an activities counselor at a nursing home or a rehabilitation center; lest you think otherwise, these activities can be very important, as they help bolster patients’ self-esteem and mood, and therefore help them function at their best. In some cases, this type of work may even help patients in their recoveries.
If you become a rehabilitative counselor, you may focus on helping people who have become disabled or who have been disabled re-integrate into society and become productive. In this case, you specialize in helping people with disabilities minimize their disabilities while focusing on their strengths. For example, someone with a physical disability which requires them to use a wheelchair can still become a very effective teacher, business person, office worker, etc.; they simply have to work in a job where walking or other abilities they lack are not required, while focusing on the talents and abilities they do have.
Guidance counselors’ jobs are very important as well, since they help students determine what their next steps will be after high school. Some students, for example, may not have a desire to go on to college, while others will not only need to go to college but will want to pick a particular vocational school that specializes in the area they want to go into. You as a guidance counselor help students determine not just the path they will take, but you will also help them pursue their goals after graduation.
Perhaps the most common picture we have of a counselor is someone who helps people with emotional difficulties. In fact, this is a very common need in society, so these types of jobs are very popular. This is one of the fastest-growing areas in the job market, and there are generally fewer graduates in this field than there are jobs to be had.
Regardless of the type of counseling job you choose, you will need to be good with people and enjoy working with them. If you work in particularly stressful situations, such as with people who have emotional difficulties or drug or alcohol problems, you will need to have a calm and soothing manner since these people rely on you to be an anchor of sorts for them. You will also need to be emotionally stable yourself, since keeping your cool even while a patient is upset is going to help them recover.
Of course, if you work with young people, you will want to be a good role model to them and practice your best behavior, too. That being said, you do not want to pretend either, so you should have a professional and courteous disposition at all times in these cases.
Because most counselors in every profession work with people from a variety of backgrounds, you will also need to be able to adjust your approach depending on whom you are talking to or working with. Therefore, you should have a good attitude and never be condescending to those you work with, but should instead approach everyone respectfully and professionally.
Education and Compensation
When you are in school, you will focus on the area you want to become a counselor in. Most counselors, especially those who work with mental-health issues or drug or alcohol abuse must meet special certification requirements in addition to educational requirements, including graduation from an accredited school and perhaps a master’s degree as well. You will also need to keep up your certification by taking exams and/or completing 100 credit hours of continuing education every five years. There is also a voluntary but suggested certification for those who decide to go into the area of rehabilitation. Some organizations require rehabilitation counselors to have this certification.
Once you graduate, you can go to your placement office at your school to request help with job placement. Alternatively you can look on the Internet or job sites for these types of jobs. Many counselors who work in the area of emotional health eventually start their own practices and work independently instead of for an employer.
On average across all industries, counselors made about $48,000 a year as of 2006.